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No Golden Arches for St Clears


A PLANNING application for a McDonald’s restaurant in St Clears has been rejected by Carmarthenshire County Council’s planning committee.
The application included the construction of a Costa Coffee outlet on the same site.

The application for the fast-food outlet finally came before councillors for a final decision on Thursday, September 19.

The proposal caused an uproar in the St Clears community, attracting around 270 objections to the development against 28 broadly in favour of it.

Council officers recommended approval of the scheme even though the burger joint and coffee shop would lie outside St Clears’ development limits.

Officers also claimed that the alterations to the road layout around the restaurant would benefit an un-associated housing development scheduled for land adjacent to the site. The 50-home building scheme is within St Clears’ development limit.

Surprisingly for a business intending to make a profit from users accessing the site solely by car, planning officers accepted the contention that any increase in traffic would be marginal without addressing why – if such were the case – such a large site was needed for the restaurant and coffee house.

Officer suggested, in all seriousness, the building of a large fast-food outlet accessed just off the main A40 roundabout ‘could potentially benefit local businesses in the town whereby customers would decide to visit the town centre after calling at the development’. It is not clear whether the planning officers considered whether the existing Starbucks, also situated just off the A40, provided a measurable benefit to town-centre businesses.

Local experience, in which town centre businesses and banks have closed in recent years, suggest any benefit would be minimal.

Resident David Peterson told the Planning Committee that his concern was primarily with the placement of a fast-food restaurant in the town when there was a crisis of childhood obesity. He forcefully reminded councillors that one of the Council’s scrutiny committees had recorded shockingly high levels of obesity among young people in the County. He also reminded them that the Welsh Government was probing levels of childhood obesity in West Wales. He said the restaurant’s construction would run contrary to the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act.

Bruce Wallace stressed that the development was outside the development limits for St Clears and that the only part of it within the LDP area was land designated for housing. He said the development was neither wanted nor needed by residents.

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Speaking for the developer’s agent, Matthew Cox said the development was sustainable and had been held to the highest standard.

Planning Chair Alun Lenny read out a statement from Cllr Philip Hughes, the local councillor who was unable to attend the meeting.

Cllr Hughes expressed concern the traffic modelling exercise did not accurately address the actual traffic flow and could cause serious congestion to traffic entering St Clears.

Cllr Tyssul Evans picked up Mr Wallace’s words that the plans were outside the LDP limits from St Clears and that, apart from the site entrance, the whole development was outside the LDP limit.

Cllr Lenny asked the Head of Planning whether that was a material planning consideration. She confirmed the fact the development was outside the development was not necessarily a determining factor.

Cllr Joe Davies support Cllr Evans’ submission and added that the restaurant created the potential for a further parcel of land to be opened for development outside the LDP limit.

Head of Planning Llinos Quelch said that economic development land was not always within the LDP boundaries. That did not mean it was a straightforward refusal as the officer had set out his reasons why the development overrode the boundary consideration.

Cllr Sue Allen said the traffic data was incomplete, while Cllr Dot Jones expressed concern about the levels of pollution.

Cllr Carys Jones noted the prevalence of accidents in and around the main junction to and from the A40.

Cllr Alun Lenny expressed concerns about the reasons being advanced for refusal and asked Cllr Tyssul Evans to clarify whether the reason for the rejection he proposed was limited to construction being outside the LDP boundary.

Cllr Sue Allen asked that the application be deferred as the impact of the development had not been measured adequately against the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. Her proposal received no support from other members of the Committee.

Committee members voted unanimously to reject the plans with the only dissenting vote coming from Cllr Lenny, who again expressed concern the reasons advanced for rejection might not stand up to an appeal.